Monday, February 26, 2007

It's a viral thing?

I've been suck in bed with a hideous flu for the last week and a half, so naturally when I got on the internet this morning I searched for "flu art." Which besides revealing a lot of images of people with kleenex on their noses led me to this page about Dutch artists called Graffiti Research Lab who are making laser graffiti. Check out their video of the process: it's pretty amazing stuff.

Friday, February 16, 2007


A couple nights ago I chanced upon a really amazing animation on television that kept me up past my bedtime. It was a sketchy loose narrative that was structured around people talking about their experiences when they were alone, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. It was gorgeous- beautifully written and drawn. It was the most moving animation I've seen since I first saw William Kentridge's work.

There's a little preview of the movie here: if you stick your fingers in your ears and don't listen to that movie announcer voice-over, you can get a little bit of the idea. It's called A Room Nearby, and it's a lot less simplistic than the voice over makes it seem.

It turns out that the animation was made by John and Sandra Fierlinger, who live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. John Fierlinger teaches animation at the University of Pennsylvania and turns out to have been responsible for some very funny little Sesame Street shorts that have a bit of a cult following. They were after my time, I think, but they're all on youtube, and you might recognize them: Teeny Little Super Guy. Being Canadian, though, I prefer this one, also from Sesame Street.

I can't wait to see his new movie, which is called Still Life With Animated Dogs. I bet it'll be great.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Let Time do the Work: Bread and Art

rawing large has its drawbacks. I'm working on a piece that's significantly bigger than the ones I've done before, which means it is about as slow as molasses with a head cold. Yesterday it took six and a half hours of serious squinting to draw the letters ANCE. And half an M. Today I outlined an R in an hour and a half after work. I've had several days in which I have managed to get only one letter done, so I've had to gratify myself by indulging in a less irritating means of productivity.

In between drawing sessions, I made bread. The easiest, best bread ever, if I do say so myself. Which I do, but I'm not alone; people all over the country agree with me about this bread. Mark Bitman raved about this weirdly easy recipe for making incredible bread in his Minimalist column in the New York Times. The method was invented by Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery, and it involves almost no labor on the part of the baker. There's a little video about how to make the bread online, and there was an article saying first, that it really is the best, easiest bread recipe ever, and second that it had changed people's lives. I'm not sure I'm profoundly different from the way I was pre-recipe, but I'm thinking I may have turned into someone who makes her own bread every week. This bread takes about 15 minutes of effort and makes a perfect round loaf that's better than anything I can buy in a bakery.

It's amazing stuff, and is so stupidly simple and unbelievably great that it's making up for the stupidly hard art that I'm making right now. Although it does take at least 15 1/2 hours to get one loaf of bread.

Here's the recipe, copied from the New York Times:

Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Published: November 8, 2006
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.